Leland Yee, the Democratic state Senator from San Francisco indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly taking bribes and conspiring to broker an international arms deal, finished third in a field of eight candidates for Secretary of State in Tuesday’s primary.
No, really. As of now, 287,590 votes have been counted for Yee – a number that will rise at least slightly as registrars around the state tally the final wave of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. Yee had announced he was dropping out of the race to be California’s top elections and political transparency watchdog right after he was charged with crimes that could put him in prison for life, but it was too late to remove his name from the ballot.
My first takeaway is that it sucks to be one of the five candidates who came in behind him. I’d call and ask them, but I’ll have mercy; if I were one of them, I’d be hung over for days and not taking calls.
I see a few possible explanations for Yee’s strong finish, and I suppose it’s probably a mix of several:
1.) Some voters have a perverse sense of humor, and don’t care much who the Secretary of State will be, anyway.
2.) This could help prove the old axiom that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Then again, that didn’t help Mary Hayashi.
3.) Some voters live under rocks, without access to the internet, radio, television or newspapers. Then again, he still came in third in San Francisco, where news of his arrest and indictment was practically inescapable.
4.) Some voters don’t believe the charges against Yee are true. (Note to those voters: Read the federal agent’s affidavit supporting the charges. It’s a barn-burner!)
That point leads to my second takeaway, which is that the real winner in this primary election is James Lassart, Yee’s attorney. He must feel at least a little better today about his future prospects in picking a jury.